IWU Pride’s Drag Ball abandons stereotypes

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By Tia Sprengel, Managing Editor

It’s not every day men get to strap on heels and women have a chance to suit up. But everyone will have the opportunity to do just that at the Illinois Wesleyan University Pride Alliance’s second annual Drag Ball tonight at 7 p.m. in the Memorial Center’s Young Main Lounge.

Originating eight years ago, and initially dubbed the “Tranny Ball,” the event, which will take place this evening, has gone through many modifications. Aside from a name change, the ball has evolved from a simple dance to a full-out drag extravaganza, including both scheduled performers and an amateur show.

An event like this brings awareness to a subset of the LGBTQ community that is generally misunderstood and carries negative connotations. The words “drag” and “drag queen” are highly stigmatized and are oftentimes viewed with disapproval, or direct contempt.

By presenting drag in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, the Drag Ball provides a safe and welcoming introduction to this subculture, which, it is hoped, will begin to alter some of the many stereotypes about the drag community.

“The Ball is an effort to break down stereotypes, encourage acceptance and empower students to have their own identities while learning about others,” said Drag Ball performer Reggie Cooke.

Chase Miller, another performer to be featured at this year’s Ball, agrees. “So many people have said ‘drag queens scare me’ so we wanted to give the students that exist in the melting pot microcosm that is IWU a chance to see that there is nothing abnormal or scary about drag,” Miller said. “Drag performers are artists. Their medium just happens to be makeup, clothes, and prosthetics, and it is important that people get that.”

But Pride realized that only featuring set performers is not enough. To incorporate students in the excitement of drag and give them a chance to experience and learn about the culture, Pride would need to convince the campus to play a part in it.

“We added the amateur show this year to increase participation and foster involvement with the community,” said former executive board member and one of the organizers of last year’s Ball Katie Rose Brosnan.  “An experience like this is important because it establishes points of empathy between members of the LGBT community and others.”

Not only does Pride’s Drag Ball introduce students to the drag community, it also raises money for a charitable cause.  The proceeds go to the McLean County AIDS Task Force, which provides prevention programs as well as free testing, support groups, and counseling.

n the past few years, though, the AIDS Task Force has lost both federal funding and their building. Since a main pillar of the group is its ability to give free services and financial assistance to those with AIDS, these losses have placed a great deal of stress on the AIDS Task Force. Pride is hoping to offset this burden with the funds they raise at tonight’s show.

“Our donations help to keep the Task Force running and able to provide their excellent services to the community,” Cooke said.

A $3 contribution is requested at the door but other donations may be made at various points throughout the show or, if you’re feeling adventurous, may be given to the performers themselves. If you hold the donation in your hand, the performers will take it from you as they see fit.

If you hold it in your mouth, you might not be the only person on the floor that’s up for a little adventure.

But just remember the performers are not exotic dancers. Pride asks, that attendees be respectful to both those onstage and those around you if you decide to give donations directly.

“Overall, Drag Ball is an imperative educational opportunity presented in an incredibly fun and proactive manner,” Miller said. “I mean, where else can you don a pair of absolutely fabulous pumps, dance for your life, and raise money for a great cause? Nowhere, that’s where.”